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Council Watch — Recap of meeting on Jan 25th

By Sean Hartman, Cape Coral Watchdog

Citizens Input Time

Former District 1 Councilwoman Gloria Raso Tate, now a private citizen, let people know of two separate events: 

  • On January 31, there will be a FEMA workshop on flood insurance at the Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral at 6:30 P.M.  This event is not in relation to Hurricane Ian.
  • On February 16th, the Cape Coral Historical Museum will be holding a heart health event from 12 PM to 4:30 PM, with speakers, medical checkups, and a blood drive.

Lori Lerman walks her dog on SW 38th Terrace with a bright light that is hard to miss, a light she bought for visual aid.  Despite this, it is unsafe to walk down that street as the 30 MPH road leads to speeding drivers.  Lori and her neighbors want something done, either by making the road one-way or adding speed bumps.

District 2 Councilman Dan Sheppard confirmed he received multiple calls about that neighborhood and is speaking to the City Manager about increasing traffic enforcement.

After recent traffic changes to the Del Prado & De Navarre intersection, which now prevents certain turns, residents in the Entrada community and the surrounding Gator Circle area are concerned about unsafe U-turns. The Del Prado & De Navarre intersection is awaiting a traffic light [https://capestylemag.com/2023/01/18/council-watch-recap-of-meeting-on-jan-11th/].  Because of these measures, drivers are making U-turns at the Entrada entrance, creating what residents are calling a “recipe for disaster.”

City Manager Rob Hernandez said that, if the problem persists at the Entrada entrance, the city can implement the same traffic controls as at the De Navarre intersection. He confirmed police are at that location regularly, but stated that drivers “need time to acclimate.”  

In the meantime, Entrada residents will just have to acclimate to more danger and risk when leaving their community, as will students waiting for the school bus. 

Jill Hyatt, a member of the Lake Kennedy Senior Acting Group, wants to know where they can rehearse for a show but cannot get an answer as to when FEMA will be vacating the site.  She has spoken to FEMA, Lake Kennedy, and Lee County Emergency Management about when they can rehearse on stage.  

City Manager Rob Hernandez recommended the Senior Acting Group find another venue as FEMA could remain at Lake Kennedy for an indefinite amount of time, suggesting Cultural Park Theater as a potential option. 

“At the moment, the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center is a priority for the community,” said the City Manager.  District 3 Councilman Tom Hayden suggested Four Freedoms Park as an option as well.

Christian Whittish, representing the North Fort Myers Student Government, informed the Council the school will be hosting an autism walk on April 1st on Moody Field at 9:30 AM.  He invited the Cape Coral City Council to the event and said they can speak about their support for special populations.

District 7 Councilwoman Jessica Cosden, who has a child on the autism spectrum, thanked Christian for the invitation and requested he email the information.

Rod Austin of Cape Harbour wants more information on tidal conditions and slack time at Chiquita Lock as well as to have bumpers put up to protect boats from debris on the side of the wall.   District 3 Councilman Tom Hayden asked why slack time isn’t there, and the City Manager mentioned he would look into and bring that information back.

Food Truck Regulations Pass

After several years of discussions and failures, excitement and support, the City Council finally voted in new mobile food truck regulations.  The regulations have been discussed over the past year and will create zoning regulations to allow for mobile food truck courts and will require food trucks not connected to food truck courts to move daily.  

The ordinance was vehemently opposed by District 4 Councilwoman Patty Cummings who came out swinging in opposition to more regulations for small businesses.

“This is a serious matter tonight that we are about to vote on,” said Councilwoman Cummings.  “We are talking about small business owners.  We are talking about entrepreneurs that have worked hard to get where they are, mom and pop shops.”

Councilwoman Cummings asked why mobile food trucks on private property are a problem for the city. She would end up spending almost an hour battling her Council colleagues in a one-woman pro-business crusade.

District 5 Councilman Bobby Welsh, who supports the ordinance, responded calmly to Councilwoman Cummings’ critical concerns about costly codes against food truck vendors.

“We’re not trying to take away from small business by doing this,” said Councilman Welsh. 

“We’re just trying to make sure that mobile food vendors are vendors.  This just means you have to move and you have to comply with the city.”

District 2 Councilman Dan Sheppard also disagreed with Councilwoman Cummings.  He noted that this has been discussed for the past year and that mobile food truck vendors are aware of these new regulations coming forward.

Councilmembers Keith Long and Jessica Cosden also agreed with Councilwoman Cummings’ concerns about daily mobility.  Both said they would like the food truck courts separated.  However, only Councilmembers Patty Cummings and Jessica Cosden voted against the ordinance.  Councilman Long voted in favor.

Former Military Museum Being Used to Store Furniture

The City Council approved an agreement with United Way to utilize the vacant lot of the former Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library.  

The location will be used by United Way and the Cape Coral Caring Center to store furniture being distributed to residents affected by Hurricane Ian.  So if you see storage containers where the Military Museum used to be, that is what you are seeing.  

United Way and the Caring Center will use the location until June with an additional six months renewal optional. 

Businesses to See Property Tax Exemptions

The City Council codified a ballot initiative approved by the voters which would give a property tax exemption to new and growing businesses in certain categories. 

It is unclear whether everyday residents will be seeing the same type of property tax exemptions that businesses get.

Councilwoman Cummings Wants Federal Funds for UEP

District 4 Councilwoman Patty Cummings has been speaking to one of Cape Coral’s Congressman, Byron Donalds, about getting federal funds.  According to Councilwoman Cummings, Congressman Donalds is open to earmarking the funds.

Mayor John Gunter spoke with the Congressman as well and Congressman Donalds recommended that they speak with a lobbyist and see what is available first.

Interesting that even the City Council needs a lobbyist to get things done.

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